Wangers Returns to Milwaukee

Featured Guest at 2014 Milwaukee Masterpiece

John Gunnell - June 03, 2014 02:25 PM


Wangers gets credit for the ’69 GTO “The Judge.”

Courtesy of John Gunnell

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       Jim Wangers, the Godfather of the GTO, will attend the 2014 Milwaukee Masterpiece, Aug. 23-24, at Veterans Park on Milwaukee's lakefront. Wangers helped create the mystique that surrounds America's original muscle car—the Pontiac GTO. He will be the centerpiece of The Milwaukee Masterpiece's 2014 celebration of the 50th anniversary of the GTO.
      Wangers was the innovative marketing force behind high-performance 1960s Pontiacs such as the GTO. A former champion Pontiac drag racer, Wangers worked for Chevrolet and Chrysler before joining Pontiac's advertising agency in 1958. He then conveyed the passion of performance car fans to Pontiac's managers and engineers, an effort that resulted in popular, now-collectible Pontiacs. Wangers later opened a Chevrolet dealership in Milwaukee and then returned to Detroit to become a consultant to GM, Ford and Chrysler.
      John DeLorean, Russ Gee and Bill Collins developed the GTO for General Motors' Pontiac Div. Wangers was an integral part of the team as he helped to establish the "muscle car" of the '60s. Enthusiasts consider him the “Godfather” of the 1964 GTO and he was also largely responsible for the distinctive “The Judge” version of the GTO that bowed five years later.
      Wangers was closely connected to the writing, production and promotion of some of the muscle car world's best-known songs, including "GTO" by Ronnie and the Daytonas. Wangers also was instrumental in getting the then-popular rock group "Paul Revere and the Raiders" involved in the 1969 advertising launch of the famous GTO Judge.